Sleep is one of the Foundations

Your body affects your mind. It is tough to change your emotions if you lack sleep, exercise, or proper nutrition. Sometimes, when one of my clients is not progressing at the rapid pace I usually see, I ask about these factors.

Sleep Awareness Week in the USA is this week, and the National Sleep Association has many events and good information. That reminded me to get around to reading Matthew Walker’s influential book “Why We Sleep.” Please check it out from your local library and at least page through it. He explains how sleep is critical for mental health and is vital to fight anxiety and depression, how common sleep disorders are, and how to fight them.

If you don’t want to invest in a sleep-tracking gadget, you can write down when you go to bed, when you wake up, and how rested you feel each morning. Then, when you have at least two weeks of data, make one change to your lifestyle. Keep it up for two weeks, and compare your notes with how you slept before you made the change.

Your sleep is one of the foundations for your health and happiness.

Improve Your Sleep

Sleeping too little is bad for your health in a thousand ways. Trying to catch up by spending the weekend in bed is not a long-term solution.

Notice what time you wake up on Saturday and Sunday without an alarm clock. If that is not about the same time you get up on work days, your sleep rhythm is disturbed and needs fixing.

To improve it, go to bed ridiculously early each day next week. Seriously early, like a 8 or 9 PM. Make a note of when you wake up fully rested. If that is not before your usual time, you have a sleep deficit you need to address. Keep going to bed very early until you wake up before you have to. Then you can start adjusting – if you want to get up at 7AM and you wake at 5AM, you can go to bed two hours later. A good sleep rhythm is necessary condition for health and success.

Uses for Your Bed

You should only use your bed for two things, and working isn’t one of them. Even if you your partner has already occupied the kitchen table for their important zoom meeting, find someplace else. It might feel nice and cosy to cuddle under your blanket in bed with your laptop, but don’t do it.

Firstly, the ergonomics of sitting in bed are horrible. Everything is too soft and you are unable to sit with a straight spine. Secondly, you don’t want to associate your bed with working. If you do, you are setting yourself up for sleep problems. (And by the way, don’t watch TV in bed, either.)

Working with people in all kinds of situations, many of them trauma victims, I usually don’t give strict guidelines. But this is one of the few. Don’t ever work in bed.

Track Your Sleep

Sleep is very important to our well-being. I used to struggle with my sleep and have to be very careful to follow my bedtime routines in order to get a good night’s sleep. 

Some studies show that more than half of us have sleep problems. If you suspect you’re one of them, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep. Surprisingly, we’re not very good at noticing how we sleep, so it can be hard to tell if the changes we make actually make a difference. If you keep a journal, write down when you go to bed and when you get up, and rate your sleep on a scale from 1 to 10 shortly after you wake up. If you turn that into a routine, your times and self-rating will show you if hot showers before bedtime, less TV, or more herbal tea is the thing you were missing.

Put Your Phone to Bed

I love how this Yale Professor has made a tiny bed for her phone. She recognized that she had a hard time turning it off at night, and found a way to put it to bed. She has shared this tip and four others for coping with anxiety and stress on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCQim9VrnDY.

Do you have a bed for your phone? Maybe you should have.